We all know that dog breeds differ in size, fur color, and other such visual properties. It’s how we can distinguish from the approximately 400 dog breeds that are present in the world. But did you know that dogs also range in level of intelligence, companionship, and temperament?
A second form of intelligence that a dog can exhibit is adaptive intelligence, which is the dog’s own ability to correct their behavior, figure simple problems out on their own, and learn how to adapt to new and changing situations. Dog breeds that excel in adaptive intelligence are great for children or people who travel, and can also make great companions for families.
The last form of intelligence that dogs display is working intelligence, also known as obedience intelligence. Working intelligence refers to a dog’s ability to not only learn from humans, but also to commit the lessons to memory for use later. Breeds that exhibit high levels of working intelligence work well as service dogs for people with special needs, and also make great team additions to police forces and bomb detection squads.
Here is a list of the top 15 smartest dog breeds. Look to see if the special dog in your life has made the cut.
15 – Pug
These amazing little dogs hail from China, where they were considered the top companion dogs for the ruling Chinese families. Pugs were bred specifically to mirror their owner’s own temperament, using their adaptive intelligence skills to complement whomever might be taking care of them at the time.
Pugs are great for families with children, as the breed is sturdy enough to play with small children properly. This breed is also especially sensitive to their owner’s moods and needs, and prefer to stick close to their preferred human. These pups are eager to please their owners, and spend most of their time trying to please their owners with fun games and antics.
14 – English Cocker Spaniel
The English Cocker Spaniel, or the Cocker Spaniel as it’s known in America, is a gun dog breed that exhibits a very high level of working and adaptive intelligence. They are, by nature, an active breed who works well as a hunting dog, whether by land or water.
These dogs are supremely good-natured and sociable animals who prefer to bond with one human. They are alert and display a good sense of taking direction, making them the perfect companions for a hunting trip. English Cocker Spaniels are loyal, and once they bond with an owner or family, it can be difficult to remove that bond. With a good amount of training and socialization, young Spaniels can grow to be suitable for families with small children and other animals.
13 – Papillon
Papillons are a toy breed that hails from France, and is one of the oldest breeds of toy Spaniels in the world. The name Papillon comes from the French word for butterfly, which is fitting, as this breed’s face, when groomed, resembles the wings of a butterfly.
This breed is extremely intelligent, both in adaptive and working intelligence. They are easily trained and socialized from a young age to be great companions for single owners or families with children and pets. Papillons, though bred over 500 years ago to be companions for French aristocracy, has become known for their watchdog skills. Trained dogs of this breed do not hesitate to warn their human owners of unexpected guests, intruders, or any sort of change in their usual environment.
12 – Bearded Collie
Bearded Collies were first introduced in Scotland in the 16th century, where they flourished as local sheepdogs. These dogs were used to herd both sheep and cattle in harsh environments, making them one of the sturdiest breeds you can find.
Bearded Collies are extremely energetic and display high levels of intelligence, which is great for a breed that was expected to shepherd a whole flock of animals almost by themselves. They respond quickly to training, excelling at agility and obedience trials. This breed is loyal to their owners, creating a bond that can last forever. They love to be part of a big family, where their antics, either in playing with children or solving a problem, can make for years of entertainment.
11 – Poodle
It is not commonly known, but Poodles, which originated in Germany as far back as the 15th century and standardized in France, were originally bred as gun dogs or hunting dogs who were good at fowl hunting. The poodle features an adept level of working intelligence and a waterproof coat that makes them especially suited for hunting in wetlands and along lakes and rivers.
Poodles display a high sense of instinctive intelligence, which is apparent in their high marking and hunting drives, regardless if they are working dogs or just family pets. Poodles excel in dog sports and agility courses, and are frequent competitors in obedience courses.
10 – Rottweiler
This magnificent breed is most likely a descendant of mastiffs that were bred during Roman times, making it one of the oldest known herding breeds known to man. As a herding breed, Rottweilers would join military exploits, herding cattle that would later be butchered for the famished Roman army.
Rottweilers are excellent working dogs, and are currently employed as everything from search and rescue dogs to guides dogs to even guard dogs that work alongside police officers and in the military. They are good natured and calm creatures, but alert to changes in their surroundings, making them great companions while on difficult missions that may include some danger.
9 – Boxer
Boxers, a working breed dog originally developed in Germany several hundred years ago, are dogs who have an incredible sense of loyalty, and often act as guardians or guard dogs of their families. They are a happy and energetic breed that flourish in families, which provide them with the attention that they seek.
Like with many other breeds, Boxers tend to respond to positive reinforcement training, which allows them to problem solve and learn in a far more independent manner than in normal obedience training programs. Many trainers will find that by using positive methods, Boxers will display high levels of adaptive intelligence.
8 – Yorkshire Terrier
These dogs pack a lot of personality and intelligence into a small package! Yorkshire Terriers were originally bred in 19th century England as rat catchers in mills and mines, but have since grown to be amiable companions for older owners and couples.
Yorkshire Terriers are an independent working breed, and as such are very easy to train. They exhibit an above-average level of instinctive intelligence, allowing them to work outside of human assistance. This breed is known to be very curious about their surroundings and protective of their owners, and make great watchdogs. With proper training, the Yorkshire Terrier is known to be an easygoing companion who will smother you with attention and love.
7 – Doberman Pinscher
The Doberman Pinscher was originally developed in the late 19th century by a German tax collector, who wished to create a guard dog breed that suited his needs. These dogs were bred to be large and aggressive when need be, but also susceptible to training and respectful of it’s owner.
This breed ranks high in all forms of intelligence, especially adaptive and obedience intelligence, making it especially sought after for military and police work. The Doberman Pinscher learns quickly, and if trained well by their owner, will display a familiarity with new situations and experiences that few other breeds will exhibit.
6 – Shetland Sheepdog
Shetland Sheepdogs were originally bred in Scotland as herding dogs, and are hardy animals who are energetic and communicative with their trainers and owners. They are athletic and require a rigorous form of exercise to keep behavioral problems at bay, making them great companions for families with large backyards and children to play with.
Shetland Sheepdogs exhibit a great deal of adaptive and working intelligence, and can be trained for a number of jobs, such as guide dogs or farm dogs. They are constantly assessing their surroundings as well, making sure their family knows if an intruder has been spotted, or something significant in their environment changes.
5 – Australian Sheepdog
Australian Sheepdogs are a working breed that hail from Australia, where they were used to herd livestock across the Outback. With their history being in working as farm dogs, it is no surprise that the Australian Sheepdog displays a great deal of working and instinctive intelligence, allowing them to be independent problem solvers when on their own.
The Australian Sheepdog, however, is a sociable animal who enjoys the company of their owners and families. They are eager to please and learn quickly, often displaying a willingness to learn as many tricks as you have to teach them! Because of their fun-loving nature, they are great for families with small children, and for people who prefer constant companionship.
4 – Golden Retriever
The Golden Retriever is one of the most popular companion breeds here in America, but they were originally bred as hunting or gun dogs. Their name, Golden Retriever, is derived from the golden hue of their coats, and also from the fact that they would retrieve any game unharmed that their owners had hunted.
Golden Retrievers have a high degree of instinctive intelligence, which can be a problem if left unattended in open fields or without enough exercise! However, this is easily taken care of with rigorous training and a large family with both children and other animals for them to interact with.
3 – German Shepherd
German Shepherds are the second-most popular breed in the United States, owing to their adaptable intelligence and ease in any role that they are trained to fill. Whether trained as guard dogs, search and rescue mission dogs, or as guide dogs, German Shepherds display emotional intelligence and a high degree of adaptive intelligence.
These are curious dogs by nature, and are independent problem solvers who enjoy solving problems and learning new things when taught by their owners. They are incredibly sensitive to young children and can be great companions for toddlers, as they are protective and choose to treat young children as their own.
2 – Labrador
Labradors, also known as Labrador Retrievers, were originally bred in Canada to be gun dogs, but have recently found popularity as assistance or guide dogs for various organizations and groups. They are highly intelligent, making them one of the best-suited breeds for training for any specific job.
While Labradors are known to be alert and curious, they are not suited for guard duty, as this affable breed strives to make friends with all humans. Their friendliness, however, makes them great companions for older couples and small children. Labradors are also great therapy breeds, as they are highly sensitive to a person’s mood and are eager to please. With their steady temperment and high degree of intelligence, these dogs are ideal for nearly every situation and household.
1 – Border Collie
Border Collies, though having a long history as being bred and trained as herding dogs, are becoming more common as a popular pet, owing to their extreme intelligence and their ability to adapt quickly to any situation. These dogs are especially good companions for couples and families with older children, as they need a lot of time and attention in order to keep them happy.
Border Collies score high on all forms of intelligence and are extremely independent, with an instinctual need to herd animals and even scars. They can be strong-willed, but with proper training and daily exercise, they are known to be excellent companions who will entertain you for years.